Emma is currently...

  • Addicted to: Fruit and nut mix
  • Listening to: Band of Joy - Robert Plant
  • Reading: Naples '44 - Norman Lewis

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Asda is a traumatic experience.

I literally think I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

This afternoon my friend was driving to Asda and I asked to tag along. Asda on a Saturday is a scary, scary place. If you're not from the UK and don't know the stereotype of Asda, this satirizes it pretty well. I felt like I was about to break down in tears in the middle of the aisle because I couldn't find what I wanted and everyone kept bashing into me with their trolleys and there were some really scary people in there, parents literally screaming at their children and a woman talking very loudly about her husband's extra-marital escapades...

It was traumatising. I have never felt so pathetic and middle-class in my life. I felt like people were looking at my basket of asparagus tips and Jordan's Country Crisp and wensleydale with cranberries in absolute digust, thinking, why don't you just go back to Waitrose huh?

Oh gosh... I'm such a snob...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

My jazzy weekend.

I'm really tired and can't be bothered to write this blog, but I'm making the effort to try and keep it up. For the past few days I've been having one of my low periods where I lose enthusiasm for everything I love: reading, writing, socialising, even watching TV... All I want to do is sleep. These times always pass though.

To cheer myself up I'll talk about my lovely weekend.

I went home for the weekend. I love my student house, and being around my housemates all the time, but every so often I need to go home and enjoy proper food and a shower curtain that's not mouldy. On Friday night my parents took me out for a lovely meal. On Saturday, I went shopping with my mum in London. We usually just look at clothes on Oxford Street, but we decided to explore the areas we don't usually go to.

I can't believe that, as a literary geek, I have never been to Foyles, the massive bookshop on Charing Cross Road. It is incredible - there are so many books! I found books there that I thought only existed in my university library. And they have this adorable cafe, Ray's Jazz Cafe, that is full of interesting bookish-type-people and serves the best cake and coffee I have eaten in a long, long time. The interior is a bit shabby and the seats uncomfortable, but that adds to the charm. My mum had to literally drag me out of the place. She offered to buy me a book but there were so many I wanted that I couldn't choose just one, and so left with none. Which is a bit silly really, but I hate making decisions! If you are an arty type like me and live near London, I insist you go there.

Then we looked at all the little second hand and antique booksellers in Cecil Court. They were all creaky floorboards and oddly-shaped nooks and crannies and shelves that reached up to the ceiling. They were full of beautiful old books, first editions and dusty tomes that you didn't want to touch in case they fell apart, and the people in there were so lovely and knowledgeable. We have been looking some books by an ancestor of ours, Cecil Freeman Gregg, whose books are out of print and quite rare, but no luck so far. We bought a couple of recent second-hand books though, which were often less than half the price they would be in a normal bookshop.

I really felt at home there. I can't wait until I have a job, and a flat in London, and I can spend my days off writing and browsing bookshops and drinking coffee.

Sunday was spent baking, so that I could bring back lots of biscuits for my housemates. Now I am back at university and, as I said earlier, feeling down for no reason. I hope I feel better soon so I can actually write something...

Friday, 15 January 2010


Today has been a weird day. One of those days when you feel like you haven't achieved a thing, and might as well go into hibernation.

I woke up, and read a bit. Some guys came to fix our TV aerial. Then, I edited my Andrew Marvell essay again, but then got bored of that. Then... I can't remember what I did. I browsed the internet for a bit, refreshing Facebook over and over again as you do, and cut the music for a tap dance I'm teaching. I decided to read a bit more (Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy if you care). Then I decided I was tired and felt sick (I've eaten nothing but peanut butter and jam sandwiches for several days and am starting to feel like my insides are dying - hello student life) so I went to sleep.

I woke up and it was dark. All my housemates were gone. I was sleepy and confused. I felt lonely and depressed, so ate a block of wensleydale cheese to make myself feel better. It didn't work.

So I watched a random old episode of Life on Mars. And... I am still depressed and lonely and confused. I think I'm going a bit crazy. I haven't been to a lecture since Tuesday... I really need to get out of the house. Tomorrow I think I'll go to the library. I don't know, I guess life doesn't feel that exciting at the moment, and there's nothing that inspires me to write. I'm just limping monotonously through my degree, as usual...

Huh. Depressing.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The apocalypse continues...

...and I don't use that word lightly. My friend managed to battle through the howling blizzard to the shop today, and apparently people were bulk-buying tinned food as if World War Three were about to break out, while the manager ran around shouting, "I HAVE NO STAFF! I HAVE NO STAFF!"

However, it's a very beautiful apocalypse. We went on another country walk today, and I took some more pictures I just have to share.

That last one is my favourite - breathtaking, no?

It's starting to drive me a bit crazy, though, being stuck in the house like this. As you've probably guessed from the fact I'm updating my blog so frequently...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


England has officially become The Day After Tomorrow.

It has been snowing all night and all day so far. People are snowed into their houses - you can't see the wheels of cars underneath the snow. The whole economy has just shut down for a day; I don't know anyone who has gone to work or school. All the roads are entirely deserted, but they don't even look like roads anymore, just massive blocks of white. My friend and I just walked to the park and we were sliding down the main roads, along with everyone else, because there are no cars.

Then we got to the park, and it was beautiful. It looked like Narnia. I'll put up some pictures later, when I've charged my camera. The lake was frozen over and the poor ducks were all huddled in one corner; trees had fallen over, unable to support the weight of the snow on their branches. We walked over the heath, and we kept falling into massive pits because we couldn't see them, and then we climbed to the top of the hill, falling over and sliding back to the bottom several times. We found a field of untouched snow that came up to our knees, then fell backwards onto it (it was incredibly comfortable) and made snow angels. We walked through the woods, through little alleys where the snow-laden trees bent over to form archways, and every time the wind shook their boughs they sent a flurry of snow falling down on us. It really did feel like we had entered a magical new world.

Then we got completely and utterly lost for two hours.

But it was quite nice. If you stopped, all you could hear was the wind and the gentle patter of snow on the leaves.

We eventually found our way out of the woods and I walked home, once again sliding down the roads. If you take a run up and then just let yourself slide, you keep going for a good five seconds. Before falling over, of course. It was so nice to see parents pulling their children down the middle of the road in toboggans, laughing and shrieking. I suppose families don't get to spend much time like that together these days.

If this snow doesn't stop, I have no idea how I'm going to get back to uni on Sunday. Right now, I'm just enjoying sitting here with a cup of tea and some cake (goodbye new year resolution) enjoying the warmth of my house, and looking out of the window at my garden, which is so covered in snow it looks like one huge marshmellow. It makes me want to write, obviously, but I have essays to do...

Edit: Some photos of the park...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Oops - I just started writing another new story.

I just couldn't help it. I was trying to write my Seventeenth Century essay, and the idea just came to me, and I had to start writing before I lost it. So now I'm writing a novel about a girl who thinks she's in love with a Cavalier poet (not me, you'll be relieved to hear, I just thought it would be a funny concept) - and then he somehow gets transported from his world into hers and she has to work out how to send him back. An idea that I'm sure has been done millions of times before, but never mind. It's fun to write! It'll probably be a shorter story, like The Window Cleaner and The Healing Properties of Tea - about 30,000 words or so.

I'm still writing the story about Anja, though - I finished Chapter Three today.

But I didn't get a word of that important assessed essay written...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

I am the essay ninja!

Oh gosh. My eyes are bleeding. I have just spent about six hours relentlessly writing an assessed essay for next term. The essay is about two of my favourite books, Rebecca and Jane Eyre, but in a way that makes it even harder - I have so much to say about them, and I can't fit it all into the 5,000 word limit.

New year's day I sat down and pounded out 9,000 words, thinking it was the best thing I'd ever written. But I won't lie, I was hungover from the night before, and when I read it all back yesterday it didn't even make sense. Literally, I hadn't even spelt half the words right. So today I've been editing, editing, editing, basically inhaling cups of tea to get me through it, and now it's starting to come together. But I'm exhausted, and I still have another 2,500 essay to write after this one!

Between bouts of furious essay writing I have also started my new story, which follows Anja, one of the characters from Storm Awakened. Like SA, this is basically another opportunity for me to practise my writing. SA is full of horribly flowery descriptions, so my project for this new story is to make my writing much tighter and more lucid. I'm trying to say more by saying less, through the actions and dialogue of my characters. I need to stop spoon-feeding my readers with top-to-toe physical descriptions, obvious and overblown pathetic fallacy, and unbearable blocks of stilted three-page-long expostulatory dialogue. You guys aren't stupid, I know that.

Another massive problem with SA was that most of the supporting characters had no lives outside of Kate and Jouran - they were just 2D cardboard cut-outs standing in the background. This time I'm trying to get inside the head of every character, even the minor ones, to build up genuine relationships between the characters. And I'm not trying to make my characters the ideal people I would like to be anymore. I tried to make Kate this sweet, virtuous, angelic person - I was fed up of reading about feisty kick-ass rebellious she-warriors who just played into the hands of the stereotypes they were meant to defy - but she ended up a boring, pathetic wet blanket. Anja is much different. At the beginning of the novel she has almost no redeeming features, but I plan to change that as I go along!

But I'm still starting from the same old position of having no plot beyond the first ten chapters or so. I know roughly what is going to happen, but not how it's going to happen, or how the story is going to end. I've decided it's more fun that way. I can imagine if I rigidly planned every plot point, and then stuck to it from beginning to end, I'd get horrifically bored halfway through. It just wouldn't be an adventure. The way I write at the moment, I never know what's coming next. It's great. I can decide on the spur of the moment to kill off a character, or dramatically change the plot so that the whole story veers off in another direction. Yes, I end up with plot holes, but the story always somehow manages to limp to a vaguely plausible ending. If I'm serious about the novel, I can always revise it afterwards, right?

But I wasn't serious about SA, and I'm not about this novel either, really. Like I said, I'm just practising my writing.

Exciting news though: regarding The Novel (as in, the big one, the one I'd like to try and publish, which will hopefully have some kind of literary merit rather than being fluffy-fantasy-romance-sellout-trash), inspiration has finally come. I have an Idea. Of course I'm not going to tell you what it is. I'm not going to tell anyone what it is, at least not until I've written a few chapters and discovered it actually works. But it's going to involve extensive research, and I've decided that every Monday (I finish quite early on a Monday) I'm going to go and spend hours in the library with my laptop, researching and writing. I want to get a portfolio of good, serious writing built up so that when it comes to applying for a Masters I have something to show for myself. Therefore Mondays = Writing Mondays. That's my new year resolution (as well as eating less cake).

On a completely unrelated note, I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. I did. I'm now enjoying hitting the sales...this morning (pre-essay marathon) I bought a gorgeous jacket from Whistles - that's another £100 out of my magical ever-replenishing fountain of money that I don't have. I will justify this shopping habit one day, when I publish a book, or work in a bookshop/library for the rest of my life, whichever fate happens to befall me.

I'm now going to watch Family Guy, as I need some comic relief after spending half the day writing about flipping patriarchal ideology and the angel in the house and binary oppositions. Screw you, Gilbert and Gubar, you can't get the better of me!